A Helping Hug by Ruth
Summary: Sometimes there isn't a way to help with words. Part of the Possible Explanation for Joey series on fighting depression.
Categories: St Mildred's House Characters: Jo (Bettany) Maynard, OC
School Period: Future
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Alternate Universe, Friendship
Challenges:
Series: Possible explanation for Joey
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 2048 Read: 1601 Published: 26 Apr 2013 Updated: 26 Apr 2013
A Helpful Hug by Ruth
Joey was getting there, was on the mend, she could tell. She'd found ways to manage herself, was eating and exercising sensibly, and almost felt the sunlight now on her cheeks as she imagined edging her way right out of the tunnel and back to life again.

After some intensive treatment with her specialist, she finally felt back to herself. He advised rest and taking things gently to begin with, so Joey took the advice to heart and delayed her return to the Platz for a while. She spent a lovely time at Penny Rest; took a few trips to visit friends; had a holiday with Madge, all of which had did her a lot of good, but Joey missed her family, and was happy when she finally made it back home. She almost felt a little upset that everyone had managed to survive so well without her, but following on from that was a relief that she could step back, could go away if she needed to, and things wouldn't fall apart. In fact everyone seemed to be doing well, and she saw more clearly that she had needed to look after herself in order to have the strength to be there properly, not up, down, or suppressed and falsely level. Jack seemed to be back to his normal self, and for once there were no dramas at the school or in the extended family. She was seeing a future now, and taking life a bit more as it came, not rushing at it like a mad thing or hiding away completely.

There was just her work, her writing left as a problem. She couldn't settle to it, couldn't make herself look at the bits already written, carry on with the story. She was used to being finished well before any deadlines, but this time she was really struggling to make herself go back to work. Her office was tidier than it had ever been, every possible item of clothing had been mended, and the household had been organised out of all existence, to the point that Anna had now banished Joey from her kitchen, frustrated at finding things constantly rearranged and relabelled.

Rufus had been walked until even he was begging for a rest, and she'd joined in with the children's holiday plans to an extent they'd never known. They had loved it, for the three youngest particularly. Phil, Geoff and Mary Claire had never known her give them such constant fuss and attention. For so much of their lives she'd been in depressive periods or rushing around barely noticing them as she passed. It pleased her that they responded so happily to her being around, but all of them were now back at school, and she knew Gwynneth and Hilda would take a dim view of her interfering and distracting them in term time.

She wanted to get back to her normal life, and her work was such a huge part of her that she knew she wouldn't feel settled until she had returned to normal in that part of life too. So now she sat, fiddling with her pen, looking out of the window, trying to do anything to avoid things that might put her off starting to read or write. Trying to find a way to keep going when she did make little starts on ideas or feel up to rereading and editing.

It was disturbing to her to have to even think about what to do, to have to concentrate so much on each part, to feel like she wasn't sure what to do next. She'd been addicted to writing or reading nearly all her life, rarely having true writers block, so this state of what she had mentally dubbed 'procrastinatitis' was a real change for her, and after the first amusement at herself, she was now close to despair. She didn't HAVE to continue to be an author, but it was usually a profession she adored, so why was she finding it so hard to get back to? She was... The best term was scared, really.

Scared of not being able to write, but also scared OF being able to get back to it - scared of being dragged back into the passion her writing could become. She was feeling so much better, but her memory of the past few years haunted her. She had spent so much time struggling to keep level, to not go up or down too much from the safe, the level ground she'd fought so hard to achieve. She didn't know whether to push herself to get going, or listen to the panic voice inside her that said "Run away, run far far away, escape, do something totally different"

The book had a deadline, she had to either complete it or give back the advance and lose some of her reputation for reliability. Their finances weren't fantastic, with all of the children still in school or university. Jack managed to get back to things now, but she didn't want him to feel any extra burden. So she was determined to get the book finished, determined that this panic, this inertia, wouldn't beat her. Progress was just so slow sometimes however, she almost felt that she was going backwards.

Joey rested her head in her hands for a moment, forehead hot against her palms. Eyes closed, trying to clear her mind. She had to remember not to be so hard on herself. She'd come so far, done so well. All she had to do now was get past this barrier, get herself back on the road to being herself again. It was a new version of herself, but still, it was recognisable; and certainly preferable to any of her swings of recent years. If she could just ... Get moving...

It was in one of these stages that Hilary found her, hair all awry from frustration, eyes suspiciously gleaming from barely held back tears. Her friend paused, she hadn't intended on interrupting, merely called to say hello, and was about to back out of the room when Joey's sharp ears caught hold of her step and turned.

Joey had the strange seesaw feeling of her gladness for a valid reason not to try any more, mixed up with a despair at another obstacle to beating her desire to procrastinate the hours away. She didn't know whether to accept Hilary's suggestion that she leave Jo to it 'While you are working' or give up the pretence and just enjoy her friend's presence. There would be other days to write in after all...

The bubbling as the emotions mixed made her grimace hello in a strange way, and catching sight of herself, Joey was unable to stop a tear escaping, briskly brushed away and glossed over in cheery greeting as she led Hilary over to the Salon and rushed off to ask Anna for tea and cake.

Hilary was left alone in the Salon, deeply concerned. She could tell that Joey wasn't quite right, but was it better to distract, or ask her if she could help? She didn't know. Her hostess was back quickly enough, hair brushed and face damp from a quick splash and tidy. She'd managed to switch on the 'Joey at Home' persona and was chattering away, offering cakes and being her usual clumsy self, narrowly missing knocking the tea pot over. Hilary grabbed it and gently teased as normal, but was at a bit of a loss; She wasn't one to show her own feelings openly, so didn't like to pry, but Joey was one of her oldest and dearest friends, so she wanted to help if she could.

It took a little verbal sparring, with Joey trying to deflect and distract, but Hilary persisted, and eventually Joey came clean with how lost she was feeling without knowing if she would ever get her career back. She hadn't realised until it was gone quite how much a part of her the ability to get down to her task had been. Was the writing totally tied up within the unbalanced Joey? Was she ever going to enjoy it again, or would it just be 'going through the motions', repeating tasks over and over until she finally churned an acceptable book out of the words ?

Hilary sat in silence for a moment, unsure how to respond. She couldn't really advise, but it was horrible to see Joey so lost. Hilary had missed her work when she married, but had had the excitement of moving to Africa and then Switzerland. Being back near the school had given her a little bit of 'work-sickness' as she missed the interaction with the girls, seeing them improve over the years. That had passed quite soon however, and having the children had occupied her quite soon after they moved, and that was her new vocation. For Joey however, work had always been an integral part of her. She'd always been driven to write, always been so sure of her path. Her writing was a passion rather than a chore, and her work was a critical part of her life, even while she clearly loved being a mother as well. Hilary couldn't think what to say, but wanted to show her support, wanted Joey to know she wasn't alone. They had never been particularly physical in their emotions, either of them, but Hilary brushed that aside and moved next to Joey, folding her into the type of hug she would use when her children were upset. Joey jumped to begin with but then being held gently like that, support passing to her through the hug, she relaxed. She had a momentary flashback to being held by Madge after some childhood illness, and felt a peace that no words from Hilary could have given her.

Hilary left soon after, and Joey slowly cleared the tea things, then sat out in the sun for a while, holding on to the peaceful feeling she so rarely had even now. It had helped, just the process of telling Hilary, although the emotion was draining, and Joey felt a bit calmer about things than she had before. The situation came back into perspective, and she decided that she was thinking about things the wrong way. If she couldn't get the book done in time, then she would talk to her publishers. All those years of being reliable had to count for something, after all. Now she was being a little less hard on herself, she saw that much more clearly. She was better to get back to things when her mind and body was ready, a poorly done book forced out of herself was far worse than a delay in creating a better one.

She felt the sun on her face, and closed her eyes, enjoying the gentle peaceful feeling, not worrying about whether it would last or not. In that doze, with her mind at peace, a few words, then an image appeared. THAT was what was wrong with the plot! It wasn't what that character would have done, it fitted another story, rather than the current one. Joey opened her eyes, and without thinking about it, she wandered indoors and began noting down her ideas, following those into writing, following that into editing and rewriting.

Jack arrived home, looked in and was glad to see his wife back to her desk, a pencil stuck behind her ear and her hair awry, but in a way he knew to be due to a happy absorption rather than a frustrated mess. He waited until a pause in the scribbling noise and then came into the room properly, dropped a kiss on her forehead and received an absent minded peck in return. He grinned happily at this sign of a full return of his wife, and then settled down in the Salon to read his paper, a peace fallen on the household that was in itself healing. It had been a difficult battle, and they both would have setbacks, but they were back on track. Things were going to be ok, there was a lot of life ahead of them, and they would appreciate it all the more for having passed through the storm along the way.
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